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Have You Been Healed?
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I spent this past weekend alone and was thinking & reflecting & praying about life and my coming Monday check up (now known as that *#!@ing check-upÖ) and realized a few things.
In theory at least, I believe that God heals people. No, it's not theory. I know, up close and personal, real stories of real people who prayed and were made well.
And yet, even after four years of living with cancer, I'm not sure I've ever really done it--I'm not sure if I've ever actually asked God to heal me.
Sure, many, many have prayed for my healing, but I donít think Iíve ever prayed to be healed myself.
Iíve prayed to be used and useful to God,
I've prayed to not ďfeel badĒ
Iíve prayed to get out of side effects
I've prayed to be have a good attitude
I've prayed to not be a whiny little wuss
I've prayed to take what I was given like a man
I've prayed to take it patiently and with grace
I've prayed to not be a burden
I've prayed that my life with cancer would draw people to Jesus
I've prayed not to die.
I've had the sacrament of the laying on of hands twice now, before each of the transplants, with honest-to-gosh holy oil and ordained ministers and all the proper words in all the right order with humble, sincere, godly witnesses, all of whom genuinely prayed along and, whether smiling, weeping or just plain furrowed, they really, really believed.
And we did too.
Even so, I'm not sure if Iíve ever actually asked God to just freakiní take this nonsense away.
Odd, no? Why?
I dunno, but I'm sure that it starts here, with all the abuse and foolishness associated with faith healing and faith healers.
Let's be honest: so many of the people who talk about "healing" in this modern religious landscape are charlatans, liars, theives and manipulators, fleecing their flocks and giving them an empty hope that breeds only heartbreak and bitterness. Indeed, more people have walked away from their commitment to faithful Christian discipleship in the wake of these "Faith Healers"/scoundrels than have ever been moved to conversion or a deeper walk.
Even the ones who are not rogues and villians, the normal, run of the mill Pentecostal and charismatic types who are genuinely good people and who genuinely believe--even they are addicted to spectacle.
In these churches, praying for healing means subjecting yourself to a suffocating, claustrophobic, rugby-like scrum of preachers, elders and deacons gathered around you and every one of them reaching to "lay hands" on you while they pray (and with it the pushing for emphasis), as well as potential slaps on the forehead from the Pastor. (The possibility of this depends, I have observed, largely on a) the level of security that that head honcho brings to his office, and b) the level of his own self-consciousness and capacity for self-criticism, and c) how much bad Christian TV he watches--but that's a whole other would-be freudian rant.)
And of course, if you do "go forward" for prayer, you also have to endure the nearly endless & very annoying piano arpeggios played between and even during their almost equally maddening worship choruses, all of which provide the background for the weeping, loud shouting, berating and beseeching from the designated prayers surrounding you. (Is God deaf? you wonder....)
To be prayed for in these churches you also, in most cases, must expect lots of weeping, loud ecstatic utterances (speaking in tongues, or glossalalia if you've got lots of book learnin' like me) and then, most unbearable of all, the long, knowing, slightly yearning half-smiles/half-sighs from the oldest, genuinely godly, but sadly sentimental women in the church lining up to hug you after you've been prayed for. This odd experience may be dying out with the older generations of "the movement", but when these dear old saints take hold of you, it feels like an almost tacit shrug of the shoulders admitting that hardly anyone ever gets healed from anything other than chronic lower back pain or a head ache, and they are there to commiserate with you no matter what--certain of God's love, if not his slap on the forhead electric shock healing power.
There are, of course, exceptions within these kinds of churches. Many Pentecostals and Charismatic have created a culture that eschews spectacle in favor of the understated and gentle. But they're hard to find, and often so busy reacting to the extremes of their brotherhood that they forget to pray for healing at all.
Other more traditional "mainline" churches have healing services too, and most of them are quite low key, miles and miles from the enthusiastic spectacle of the faith healers and revivalists. I like these services a great deal, but whenever I've been to one I always feel like they don't really believe in healing--at least not in the sense that most of us think of when we talk about "divine healing", that kind of healing that Jesus did when the lame suddenly were straightened and got up, picked up their beds, and walked. At the mainline churches you'll get hands laid on very ceremonially, and a dab or two of oil and a prayer asking God to heal--"if it's your will." Mostly, it seems, they pray for the doctors to have wisdom, the medicines to work, and the dying to know grace and meaning.
And in all cases, whether a tongue-talking Charismatic or a smells and bells Anglican, I think all of us would shit our pants if we prayed and a leper actually was cleansed of his disease or a blind man found his sight.
I think I haven't prayed directly for healing because I've wanted my friends and those I meet to have a vision of what it means to be a Christian that is somehow apart from all that nonsense. Because I believe it's better to believe than not to and because I want my friends to know the comfort and assurance of grace I've experienced--in times of prosperity and in times of trial--I have wanted to protect them from the abuses and failures of our faith. And so, I've rarely talked of the faith at the core of my gut that believes that, albeit with near randomness, God does indeed intervene in human events and heal people, just in case they begin to think I'm as nutty as these buffoons on TV.
Perhaps I've been reacting to those outrageous, ungodly and ultimately heretical "healing" ministries that hovered around &/or grew from the Pentecostal world in which I was raised, and in which I came to faith.
Perhaps I was afraid that if I asked them to pray for me someone would slug me in the head and expect me to fall over "slain in the Spirit" and be overcome in some kind of psycho-sexual-spiritual conjuncture.
Perhaps I was fearful that I'd have to spend weeks and months at the Toronto airport waiting to bark like a dog.
Perhaps I was angry at the as-stupid-as-they-are-sincere people who've circled their wagons around me and asked me what evil &/or sin was still in my life which had caused my cancer and told me that if you live a godly life you'll never die.
Perhaps I was just plain tired of the dopey alchemy that these "faith-claim-it" would-be theologians have invented from a few disconnected scriptures, and I didn't want to listen to their presumptive sacrilege another moment.
Perhaps I was afraid that if I were to actually be healed those stupid, foolish, dopey "faith healers" might take some kind of credit for it, or worse, assume it is a validation of their blasphemous theology.
Perhaps I thought that by making the focus of my prayers a plea for and call to service and a search for meaning in our suffering, I might offer some kind of hopeful and godly alternative to such foolishness.
Perhaps I've thought myself too heroic.
I don't know why I've been reluctant to just entirely go for it.
I'm sure it's a combination of many things, including all that I've listed and with them, I'm sure, a healthy heaping helping of my own fear and doubt and restlessness and pride.
Moreoever, I'm sure somewhere deep in my subconscious there is utter, abject terror at the responsibility that comes should I be healed.
But it doesn't matter, not anymore, not now.
Things have changed.
While I'm ready to go, I don't want to die. I'm not afraid, in general, of Death, but dying scare the crap out of me.
And while whatever awaits us in the inbetween--that time between this life and the life in the Kingdom coming/yet to come--flabbergasts and confuses me as a theologian, as a believer, however, my hope--our hope, the "hope of glory"--is the resurrection, and I revel in it's wondrous, earthy embrace and affirmation.
Am I feeling desperate today? Yes. I'm just convinced that I'm not done here yet.
But more so, I'm convicted. In a very real, deep, spiritual way, I've been layed low. (For my agnostic and non-Christian and non-believing friends: In my gut, that means that I just know, and it humbles me.) For me, this time, this moment of conversion in a life of them means this: I need to pray directly, straight-forwardly, clearly, asking God to make me better.
So Iíve decided Iím going to start, and begin, every day, to ask God this simple, desperate, if irreverent prayer:
Dear Jesus: please just freakin' heal me.
Seriously. Right now. No holds barred, no limits, no hesitations, no qualifications.
God, make me better.
I have no expectations, no bargains & no agendas, save one: to be faithful in this way, to honor his kindness by obediently asking that God do me this favor.
I know that over the last four years, many of you have prayed for me a lot. God has honored your faith, and it's meant the world to me. Now, can you and your church or community do it again--knowing that this time I'll be joining you, not interpreting you to God?